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Young People’s More Permissive Views About Marijuana: Local Impact of State Laws or National Trend?

Do state medical marijuana laws influence young people’s views about the risks of using marijuana?  A recent study investigated this question by analyzing 10 annual waves of the US National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2004-2013) submitted by young people [stratified as: middle-school aged youth (12-14yo; 111,100), high-school aged youth (15-17yo; n=114,000), and young adults (18-25yo; n=225,200)].  Results indicated that young people living in medical marijuana states was associated with more permissive views regarding marijuana—such as believing monthly and weekly use is not of great risk, marijuana is easy to obtain, and parents and friends would not disapprove of its use.  However, this association became non-statistically significant after controlling for state level differences.  Instead, data indicated a national trend over time toward more permissive attitudes, which was more pronounced among young adults. For example, young adults in 2013 had 2.4 times higher odds of reporting weekly marijuana use is “not of great risk” than young adults did in 2004.

Take Away: this study’s findings support that a national trend toward young people’s more permissive views on marijuana use is emerging independently of any policy changes within states.  Given that young adults experienced the greatest shift in attitudes, campus prevention specialists may consider discussing the role of public policy in shaping our attitudes about marijuana use in their prevention programs.

Schmidt, L. A., Jacobs, L. M., & Spetz, J. (2016). Young people’s more permissive views about marijuana: Local impact of state laws or national trend?. American journal of public health106(8), 1498-1503.

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